The other McGregor: Rising star Aoife steps out of the shadow of her Notorious brother Conor
As she gears up to launch her own beauty and fashion brand early next year, Aoife McGregor lets her guard down to our reporter about being made redundant in the recession; Kanye West shaking her hand; falling in love with husband Mark, her father Tony’s dapper style, how her ultra-glamorous mother Margaret motivated her to go into fashion and how her ‘baby brother’ Conor inspired her to take on the world
'Obviously, I'm the sister of an extremely famous athlete," Aoife McGregor says. What is just as obvious, however, is that having Conor McGregor as a brother certainly does not define her.
"No, it doesn't define me..." the 30-year-old begins.
"...I originally started as a sales rep for a really big make-up brand. Then, like a lot of people in Ireland, I was made redundant in the recession."
How did you feel when you lost your job?
"I kind of knew it was coming. I was lucky because I was still young. So I didn't feel that hard done by. I was only in my early 20s at the time. I knew eventually that I wanted to be a make-up artist. And I just felt, 'here is my chance' because I got a little bit of money that I hadn't had. I thought, 'Let's go with it, and do what I really want to do'," she says.
"It wasn't as if I was in my 40s or my 50s and I had kids and I had a home. There was nothing like that. I was still living at home with my parents. So I didn't really take it too hard. I just picked myself up and went and did a make-up course. I did a make-up course because I obviously had a passion for beauty.
"And then I was extremely lucky in that I got a job with one of the world's biggest make-up brands, Mac. I started off as a host at Christmas, and then, after Christmas, they made me full-time, five years ago."
Aoife admits that she "couldn't believe it when she got the job with Mac". She thought she would have to leave her CV everywhere, but suddenly it all fell into place for her. "People ask me, 'What was it like?' In make-up terms, it was like a little kid wanting to be a footballer and suddenly getting to play for Manchester United," she says.
While at Mac, Aoife noticed that social media "started to become a thing. Other girls I worked with started to share pictures of their work, and I started to share pictures of my work. That's how I generated a following on Instagram."
Aoife, who now has well over 100,000 followers on the social-media site, did mini-videos of how to do certain beauty looks. The striking blonde has the look of someone who knows what she is talking about where fashion and beauty are concerned.
Unsurprisingly, Aoife's inspiration from a very young age was - and remains - her mother, Margaret. "My mam is so glam," she beams. "She is really into make-up. I always remember, as a little girl - before gel nails and acrylic nails - every Friday night, before my mother went out for a few drinks with my dad, she would sit and put her nails on."
And you would watch her, I say.
"And I watched her do it," Aoife says, smiling, as she looks back on her happy childhood.
"And the next morning - I always remember it - I can still smell that glue. She would have taken her nails off at night, and the next morning I would stick them on myself and go around the house and pretend I was her.
"I was seven or eight years of age," she says.
Aoife would put her on her mother's "big fake plastic pearls and earrings. So it was always in me," she says of the love of, and devotion to, glamour, fashion, beauty and making herself into a goddess.
Aoife's mother wasn't the only member of the McGregor household who was into how they looked and how they expressed themselves to the world (We'll get to Conor later.) Her sister Erin - the eldest sibling and a hairdresser by trade - was also into personal style, as was their father, Tony.
"My dad was extremely dapper. He loves his old three-piece suits. At every family party, all my uncles would rock in with their jeans and their shirts, and I guarantee that Tony would have a three-piece suit, even if it was a little party in the corner of a pub or my cousin's 21st. So it was always in us from a young age to be stylish. We are all quite into fashion."
Who did you want to be when you grew up?
"My mother. She was like a little style icon to me, back then. She always had new clothes going to parties. She always was glam. And that's who I aimed to be."
What did you inherit from your father?
"My dad is very witty. He is funny. He is charming. My mother is probably a little bit more laid-back; shy. Even though she looks to stand out glam-wise, she still likes to keep it quiet. My dad is outspoken, chatty. He likes to be the centre of attention. He is great with the one-liners."
Aoife has inherited her dad's talent for the one-liners, evidently. Earlier this summer, after Aoife posted a photo on Instagram with some Fendi, Chanel and Louis Vuitton shopping bags, the online trolls turned up the hate on her, with comments such as: "Keep pissing away your brother's money, he's gonna be one broke-ass bitch one day." Her reply was a classic put-down: "Nope, having too much fun spending it - my brother's gonna be a #billionaire." I think a fighting commentator might describe that as a knock-out blow.
"My dad is really intelligent," she continues. "He knows all about stuff from years ago. He would be able to tell you something about that tree out there," Aoife says pointing out the window of the Dublin house in which we are."My parents are really proud of the three of us," she says, meaning her big sister, Erin, and her little brother, Conor, aka MMA icon, The Notorious.
"My parents were extremely hard workers. All my life they worked. My dad was a taxi driver. They met when they were, like, 13 or 14, when they were working in a launderette just off Baggot Street. They met when they were folding sheets. Folding sheets was apparently the thing to do," she laughs.
Aoife, who got married to Mark last New Year's Eve, didn't meet her husband folding laundry in a launderette. They knew each other through mutual friends. They were both in a relationship at the time they first met, but two years later, when the respective relationships ended, the planets seemed to realign themselves: Aoife and Mark randomly bumped into each other on the street in Lucan Village one day.
"It was like it was meant to be," Aoife says. "My parents are together thirty-odd years. Mark and I are together about six," she says. "He asked me for my number that day and I gave it to him. He chased me for a while. He wouldn't stop!"
How long before you and Mark went out on your first date?
"Oh, a good few months," she laughs.
Were you using reverse psychology on your future husband?
"You know what?" she muses. "I was single for a long time and I was enjoying the single buzz. I didn't want to get into a relationship. And then I met him for a coffee, and straight away I knew. I just knew."
I ask how she knew.
"He had been in my life a few years before that. We went our separate ways, and I just knew when we met again that this was it. And he knew. And that was it; we have been inseparable ever since then." They have spent practically every day together in their own love bubble since. They moved in together. Two years on from the fateful coffee at a cafe in Lucan, they got engaged.
"He proposed in the most romantic way ever," she gushes.
I ask for the details.
"We live out in Straffan, and he brought me to a place where a lot of brides and grooms arrive in a helicopter, near where we live. He said to me, 'I'm taking you for a spa weekend. Be ready at 2pm'."
At 2pm, he picked her up and drove to the spot. Aoife could tell Mark was nervous over something. He asked her to get out of the car and to walk with him to a tree "over there". To which, a mystified Aoife asked, "What? Why?"
He then handed his future wife "this scroll" with a picture of the two of them imprinted on it. It also had on it how he had met her, and detailed how much Aoife had changed his life. As Aoife read to the end of the scroll, she could see Mark from the corner of her eye; he was shaking, and taking out the box with the ring in it.
And then he got down on one knee and asked the blonde beauty to marry him. Just as he popped the question on May 13, 2015, a helicopter appeared out of the sky to pick up the affianced duo and whisk them to the Powerscourt Hotel for the weekend.
"That is where we got married on New Year's Eve, 2016," says Aoife.
Aoife got her dress - a couture gown by Israeli designer Berta - in the Wedding Club in London. She travelled over to London four or five times, with her beloved mother Margaret, looking for the right dress.
"My mother thought every dress looked amazing on me, but it was only when I tried on the dress that I eventually picked that I knew by her reaction that it was really 'the one'," she says.
Having finally said yes to the dress, Aoife flew out during Christmas week to London to get her dream wedding dress made, as she was getting married on New Year's Eve. "It was a couture gown," she explains, "so it had to be made and tailored to fit me."
They went to the Maldives for their honeymoon - and to Dubai for three days. "We were flying over Dubai on the way, so we decided to stop there because we had never been before," she laughs.
Despite possibly using her MMA multi-millionaire bro's private jets like most people use CIE buses, Aoife is implacably grounded, undeniably sweet and, most of all, herself. There is a sense that she is keeping it real, because that's how she was raised in Crumlin.
The pictures of her onboard the private jet to Las Vegas in August for a certain fight showed a young Irish woman who radiated star-power - Kim Kardashian-esque star-power. So much KK-like starpower in fact, that from Aoife's poise in the pictures en route to Sin City at 35,000 feet, you could have easily mistaken the private jet for hers. Indeed, in the Las Vegas T-Mobile Arena for the big fight with Mayweather, she walked among superstars such as Charlize Theron and Jennifer Lopez as if she were one of them.
Our Aoife, the rising star of Irish fashion and beauty, certainly looked as good as any of the creme-de-la-creme of Hollywood's elite in attendance that August evening. She had her own sense of style, of the creative.
"Aoife has always been creative," her sister Erin tells me. "She was never afraid to try out new looks and step outside the box. Her personality shines through. To me, she is very special, and I am so proud of her. She definitely has the X factor."
"Aoife was born with cool," her dad Tony says. "She didn't acquire it."
Her innate coolness, and indeed her possession of the aforementioned X-factor, is clearly evident when you meet her. Aoife's fashion sense is high-end mixed with high street - Christian Louboutin boots with Zara jeans and a Prada handbag - and she adds her own twist.
As such, Aoife is currently working on a brand around fashion and beauty that will be launched in Ireland and the wider world early next year. "The brand will be what I'm about, but I can't say more than that," she says.
"I am not going to say what it is, but I am bringing out my own collection. Two different collections under my name. The plan for the future is world domination. I want to do Ireland and the world."
There is no massive prize money for working out where Aoife got this scale of ambition from. Asked what kind of an influence her brother was on her life, Aoife doesn't hesitate.
"My brother was extremely inspiring. He is so inspiring to be around. He is also extremely supportive," Aoife says, "and I think his drive has given me drive to do what I want to do. So watching him conduct his businesses, and watching his dreams manifest in front of all of us, and in front of the world, has made me want to chase my dreams."
If you can dream it, you can make it happen?
"Exactly. That's where he inspired me."
Was he protective of you growing up?
"He was the baby of the house. He is still the baby of the house. But, yeah, like any other baby brother, he is very protective. He loves me and Erin dearly, and he is very supportive of us. He is very dapper, and he definitely gets that from my dad."
Does your husband dress in a dapper fashion also?
"He tries! Mark would be trendy, as opposed to dapper. Dapper, to me, is suits." She and Mark have two little shih-tzu dogs, Teddy and Louis. "Louis after Louis Vuitton. Hello! It has to be fashion-related," she laughs.
How does it feel to see your baby brother get punched?
"Does he get punched? I haven't seen him get punched," she laughs.
"You know what? We are so proud of him. Everyone always asks me what's it like to be at ringside when he fights. Or, 'What's Leonardo DiCaprio like?' It is inspiring to watch Conor fight. He is in this octagon or ring, recently, and he is doing what he said he is going to do. Everything he said he is going to do, he is doing it."
Does she ever get frightened for her little brother that he will get hurt?
"No. I have every faith in him. He is extremely confident. Before the fights, if you were to see how positive he is - he has got this. And that's how we feel sitting at the ring."
Where does that almost superhuman self-belief come from?
"My sister introduced him to the book The Secret, and I think that's basically where he's got it. He's just got this amazing self-belief. I'm learning to have that. It is making me think, if he can do it, I can do it..."
And what is Leonardo DiCaprio like?
"You know, we are there to support Conor. That's the only time we get to see all these celebs is at these fights. So I don't even notice them. I am there to support my brother, and to be there for him. I don't even flinch when they walk by. Leonardo DiCaprio could walk by and I don't notice him, because I am not there for that.
"We met Kanye West after the fight - he came backstage and shook my dad's hand and my hand, and he was really nice. He said to my dad, 'Your son is amazing'."
So is your daughter, Tony.
Photography by Aaron Hurley
Styling by Liadan Hynes
Sunday Indo Life Magazine